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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

On the Road Again... or should that be "still?"

I've been traveling a lot, lately. Actually, that's my reason for not having written anything here for the last couple weeks. It all started with a trip to Catonsville, MD, for a Central Atlantic Conference Board of Directors meeting. Almost immediately upon my return, I was off to Boston, where I visited my friend Eliza Garfield, and celebrated her birthday with her.

As a dedicated boat-geek, I had always wanted to visit "Old Ironsides," the U.S.S. Constitution, so I made a side trip to the Charlestown Navy Yard to visit the oldest commissioned warship afloat. (H.M.S. Victory, Lord Nelson's flagship at the battle of Trafalgar, is older, but is in permanent drydock.)

When I went to visit the historic 44-gun frigate, I learned that "Connie" is in the middle of a major restoration project. She has been almost completely downrigged, with nothing left in her but the lower masts. All of her guns had been removed from the spar deck and the vessel had been roofed over to protect her during the replacement of her deck timbers. "Come back in two years," said the petty officer who welcomed me aboard.

Once aboard, having passed through airport-type security, I was free to wander around the spar deck for a few minutes before another petty officer called everyone together for the below-decks tour. After a quick introduction, we went below to the gun deck, where our guide -- a navy cook -- told us about the history of the vessel and discussed the food that would have been served aboard Constitution in 1787, when she was first launched: Weevily biscuits, salt "horse", dried peas, "lively" water (with all kinds of stuff growing in it), and, of course, the daily ration of grog which, in the U.S. Navy, was generally made with whiskey rather than rum. Looking aft, we could peek into the captain's cabin.

Moving down to the berth deck, I was one of the few who could stand up straight, with the overhead at almost exactly 5'6". Here, we were able to see hammocks slung as the enlisted men's would have been and we were also able to move aft and take a peek into the officers' wardroom. The tour wasn't able to go into the orlop, though I would have loved to. Afterwards, I spent a few minutes talking with the guide and hearing about how Constellation's crew actually has to train aboard the U.S.C.G. barque Eagle and aboard other A.S.T.A. training vessels, since the navy doesn't have any fully operational sailing vessels. Similarly, he told me, Constellation sometimes hosts sail training events, which leads me to wonder if there might be some way I could work my way aboard for a future event, possibly even showing some navy tar the right way to do things.

After a drive home, complete with car problems, it was time to turn right around and go back to Connecticut with my family to celebrate Thanksgiving. As we have for the last many years, we spent the holiday celebrating with Eric Anderson's family in Millbury, Massachussets, where his stepmother is pastor of the UCC church. I'm pleased that neither Kimberly nor I brought home the loser's trophy (yes, there's an actual loser's trophy) from the Anderson Family Thanksgiving Day Croquet Tournament.

We've been home since Sunday night, but things haven't slowed down at all. I've been meeting up with friends and am even getting together with my pastor to try and help him put together a confirmation program for the coming year. Tomorrow, I'm teaching my fencing class and the next day, I think, will be Christmas. At least it seems that way.

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